Review: “The Master Craftsman” by Kelli Stuart

Thanks for stopping by to read my thoughts on The Master Craftsman by Kelli Stuart! It is a split time novel featuring events leading up to the Russian Revolution and the work of Fabergé in a historical aspect and a modern day family reconciliation and treasure hunt.

About the Book

In 1917, Alma Pihl, a master craftsman in The House of Fabergé, was charged to protect one of the greatest secrets in Russian history–an unknown Fabergé Egg that Peter Karl Fabergé secretly created to honor his divided allegiance to both the people of Russia and the Imperial Czar’s family. When Alma and her husband escaped Russia for their native Finland in 1921, she took the secret with her, guarding her past connection to the Romanov family.

Three generations later, world-renowned treasure hunter Nick Laine is sick and fears the secret of the missing egg will die with him. With time running out, he entrusts the mission of retrieving the egg to his estranged daughter, Ava, who has little idea of the dangers she is about to face. As the stakes are raised, Ava is forced to declare her own allegiance–and the consequences are greater than she could have imagined.

This modern-day treasure hunt from award-winning author Kelli Stuart transports you into the opulent and treacherous world of the Russian Revolution to unearth mysteries long buried.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Master Craftsman delivered an interesting premise with a bit of a historical “what if” and a contemporary treasure hunt. I learned many things about the true history of Fabergé and his craftsmen through this story — if you read it, be sure to Google the different eggs mentioned along the way. They are stunning!

I enjoyed the historical chapters more, with Fabergé and Alma, somewhat of an apprentice craftsman, sharing points of view. Their rise to Imperial status and the subsequent perils of the Bolshevik revolution were gripping and heart wrenching.

The contemporary story was good, with Ava and her family, then an unlikely treasure hunting crew (complete with a sweet, heroic nerd with a big crush on Ava), learning more about the history of Faberge and the revolution. Parts of it were a bit predictable for me, and some of the time spent setting up the search for the egg felt tedious with little action. I did like the ending, though, and how a theme of treasure in relationship came to the forefront.

Thank you to Revell Reads for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Until Leaves Fall in Paris” by Sarah Sundin

Header Image Revell Reads

Thanks for stopping by to read my review of Sarah Sundin’s latest standalone novel, Until Leaves Fall in Paris. With a unique perspective that sets it apart from many titles in the WWII genre, this story will appeal to historical fiction and romance lovers alike.

About the Book

When the Nazis march toward Paris, American ballerina Lucie Girard buys her favorite English-language bookstore to allow the Jewish owners to escape. The Germans make it difficult for her to keep Green Leaf Books afloat. And she must keep the store open if she is to continue aiding the resistance by passing secret messages between the pages of her books.

Widower Paul Aubrey wants nothing more than to return to the States with his little girl, but the US Army convinces him to keep his factory running and obtain military information from his German customers. As the war rages on, Paul offers his own resistance by sabotaging his product and hiding British airmen in his factory. But in order to carry out his mission, he must appear to support the occupation—which does not win him any sympathy when he meets Lucie in the bookstore.

In a world turned upside down, will love or duty prevail?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin embodies a poignant look at the determination and endurance of Americans who chose to stay in occupied Paris during WWII. This is shown through the eyes of its hero and heroine Paul and Lucie, as they make sacrifices and seek to find small joys — and even an unlikely romance — during the months leading up to America’s official involvement in the war. In my opinion, this would make a fantastic movie! Not every book is suited to such an adaptation, but I think the setting, romance, and high-risk elements would translate well to the screen.

One of the things I love about historical fiction, and stories centered around one of the World Wars, in particular, is the abundance of perspectives and the triumph of humanity during that time. This story explores an aspect I have not encountered in my reading: that of Americans abroad dealing with the German oppression of Paris and the dangers of resistance. Through Paul’s business activities and Lucie’s book store, they become increasingly involved in efforts to aid the Allies, though dangerous and in secret. This adds another layer to their growing friendship, as their activities are kept from each other yet their lives are becoming increasingly intertwined.

I appreciate Lucie and Paul’s convictions and how their initial distance is ultimately surmounted because of their integrity and beliefs. Their romance develops with a realistic steadiness and sweetness. Paul’s daughter, Josie, is a shining character who brings a ray of light to their lives.

In true “Sundin” style, all story elements combine to make this a memorable standout novel in a sea of WWII stories. The Parisian setting comes to life as action and intrigue unfold with ballet, books, friendship, and one spirited storytelling child enduring the tumultuous time. A slight connection to Sundin’s novel When Twilight Breaks will delight readers of that story as they will recognize Paul as a side character from it.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Never Leave Me” by Jody Hedlund

Thanks for stopping by my blog today! I’m reviewing the latest release from author Jody Hedlund and Revell Publishers, Never Leave Me, the second book in her contemporary-and-medieval time travel Waters of Time series.

About the Book

In the last stages of a genetic disease, Ellen Creighton has decided to live out her remaining days at the estate of her longtime friend Harrison Burlington. Harrison cares deeply for Ellen, but as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, he’s never allowed himself to get serious in a relationship. However, he’s desperately trying to save her by finding the holy water that is believed to heal any disease.

When he locates two flasks, Ellen refuses to drink one of them because she believes the holy water killed her sister and father. In an effort to convince her to take it, Harrison ingests the contents first, and when Ellen witnesses the effects, she can no longer deny the power of the substance in the bottles. Dangerous criminals are also seeking the holy water, and Ellen soon learns they will go to any lengths to get the powerful drug–including sending her back into the past to find it for them.

Bestselling and award-winning author Jody Hedlund plunges you into the swiftly flowing river of history in a race against the clock in this breathtaking, emotional second Waters of Time story.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Never Leave Me is a riveting sequel with a romance I was rooting for. While it could be appreciated on its own, I feel that the full arc of the story begins in the first book, Come Back to Me, and I would recommend reading it first to understand the characters and concepts.

The story is quick paced and intriguing from the very beginning, with Hedlund taking a smart concept and building on the time travel tenets of book 1, further drawing Ellen and Harrison into a search for holy water — along with a nefarious group seeking the same. By story’s end, I was happy to know a little more about Ellen’s sister, Marian, part of the main couple from book 1. The inclusion of the middle ages elements into the story is interesting to me. I like the link of the holy water to a Biblical beginning and historical legends and healings.

While I was really eager for the friends to lovers (long-unrequited on the part of Harrison) situation between Harrison and Ellen to play out on page, I thought the romance progressed in stops and starts. Some key moments happen early on (understandably given the plot), yet I thought some of their relationship felt forced because of this. I did appreciate the lessons they learn because of their friendship and the selfless love each of them exhibit for each other. And they had some wonderfully romantic moments in the midst of the action, too.

Thank you to the publisher Revell for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “A Heart Adrift” by Laura Frantz

I’m reviewing a recent standalone historical romance today: A Heart Adrift by Laura Frantz. She is one of my very favorite authors, and I always look forward to savoring her annual book releases. My musings about this story could go on for a while, so I will attempt to be coherent in sharing my thoughts here :).

About the Book
A Heart Adrift cover with heroine, flowers, and a ship in the distance

It is 1755, and the threat of war with France looms over colonial York, Virginia. Chocolatier Esmée Shaw is fighting her own battle of the heart. Having reached her twenty-eighth birthday, she is reconciled to life alone after a decade-old failed love affair from which she’s never quite recovered. But she longs to find something worthwhile to do with her life.

Captain Henri Lennox has returned to port after a lengthy absence, intent on completing the lighthouse in the dangerous Chesapeake Bay, a dream he once shared with Esmée. But when the colonial government asks him to lead a secret naval expedition against the French, his future is plunged into uncertainty.

Will a war and a cache of regrets keep them apart, or can their shared vision and dedication to the colonial cause heal the wounds of the past? Bestselling and award-winning author Laura Frantz whisks you away to a time fraught with peril–on the sea and in the heart–in this redemptive, romantic story.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With A Heart Adrift, Laura Frantz delivers another epic historical romance in the colonial days of America — this time with rich themes and a second chance romance.

The romantic relationship is paced perfectly, with the reader getting to know the hearts and the history of Esmée and Henri along the way. From a bittersweet reuniting to a tentative restored friendship, they find their way back to each other amongst social gatherings and providential meetings. I enjoyed the way memories of their young romance were scattered through their story, showing how the vibrancy of their youth was seasoned with maturity — in both behavior and choices.

Quote from the book: "There stood Captain Henri Lennox...

Henri’s confidence in Esmée is admirable and one of the (many) reasons to love him, as is his calm demeanor. He is deserving of the moniker hero in many ways, as his actions prove in the story. Esmée is a relatable heroine and her care for everyone around her, extending to her family, friends, and the recipients of her benevolence, makes her a worthy match for Henri and of steadfast character herself. Theirs is a love that has surpassed weathering and trials, both during their years apart and through the events of this novel. Faith is subtly woven as a natural part of their lives, as Frantz has proven with past stories, and this abiding hope in the Creator is a credit to their character and an integral part of their identity.

The coastal Virginia setting and maritime interests are very much active characters in the story. Frantz’s signature prose-like style paints an immersive setting and showcases fascinating aspects of history and tradition, with the addition of nautical imagery and verbiage that fascinated me (I learned some new words!). I was also intrigued with Esmée’s chocolatier role and the societal consumption of hot cocoa. In short, I recommend reading this book with a cup of cocoa or a nice chocolate dessert nearby.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Come Back to Me” by Jody Hedlund

Today I’m reviewing Come Back to Me by Jody Hedlund, the first book in her time-travel fantasy romance “Waters of Time” series. While I’ve enjoyed many historical novels by Hedlund, and she has penned a Medieval series, I was especially excited for the mashup of a contemporary heroine who finds herself in Medieval times while trying to save her family.

About the Book

The ultimate cure that could heal any disease? Crazy.

That’s exactly what research scientist Marian Creighton has always believed about her father’s quest, even if it does stem from a desire to save her sister Ellen from the genetic disease that stole their mother from them. But when her father falls into a coma after drinking a vial of holy water believed to contain traces of residue from the Tree of Life, Marian must question all of her assumptions. He’s left behind tantalizing clues that suggest he’s crossed back in time. Insane. Until Marian tests his theories and finds herself in the Middle Ages during a dangerous peasant uprising.

William Durham, a valiant knight comes to Marian’s rescue and offers her protection . . . as his wife. The longer Marian stays in the past, the more she cares about William. Can she ever find her father and make it back to the present to heal her sister? And when the time comes to leave, will she want to?

Bestselling author Jody Hedlund is your guide down the twisting waters of time to a volatile era of superstition, revolts, and chivalry in this suspenseful story.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Come Back to Me by Jody Hedlund is an adventure of a novel that’s one part action, one part fantasy, two parts romance, and all kinds of awesome! Subtle themes of sacrifice and the lasting impact of love weave through these characters’ interactions as they face unexpected challenges — like the hazards of life in Medieval England.

The concept of historical holy water with Biblical ties is smart and brings a good deal of real-life history to the story, as Hedlund outlines in her author’s note. I liked that real-life aspect, as well as the historical turmoil of the Peasants’ Revolt being important parts of the story. It provides a thought-provoking contrast with Marian’s perspective of life in the 21st century.

I didn’t buy into the instalove between Marian and Will at first. But, I quickly grew to appreciate their relationship as they acknowledge the progression from undeniable attraction, to a deeper heart-connection and friendship, to love as a commitment and active choice. Jody Hedlund always writes *all the sparks* and romantic tension so well, and Marian and Will’s passion is no exception. The thread of their relationship unfolds and models sacrificial love and loyalty as the most impactful story aspect.

Fans of contemporary romance and medieval times or adventurous and daring knightly heroes like Robin Hood will enjoy Come Back to Me! While it ties up the romance and lives of Marian and William satisfactorily, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next installment, Never Leave Me, as it focuses on Marian’s sister, Ellen — with a love interest I am ALREADY rooting for!

Thank you to publisher Revell and their Revell Reads program for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Paris Betrayal” by James R. Hannibal

“If Ben had special equipment and a Company team, maybe he could make a reasonable covert assault. But he had no equipment, and his team had abandoned him.”

The Paris Betrayal by James R. Hannibal

I’m happy to be reviewing a suspense/spy-thriller today! I’ve been a fan of James R. Hannibal the past couple years with his Talia Inger novels. His latest book, The Paris Betrayal, combines some of my favorite elements in one thrilling story: European settings, high stakes action, and the slightest thread of a Biblical parallel. Read on for more about the book + my thoughts…

About the Book
Cover of The Paris Betrayal showing the Eiffel tower with a boat in the foreground

After a rough mission in Rome involving the discovery of a devastating bioweapon, Company spy Ben Calix returns to Paris to find his perfectly ordered world has collapsed. A sniper attack. An ambush. A call for help that brings French SWAT forces down on his head. Ben is out. This is a severance–reserved for incompetents and traitors.

Searching for answers and anticipating a coming attack, Ben and a woman swept up in his misfortunes must travel across Europe to find the sniper who tried to kill him, the medic who saved his life, the schoolmaster who trained him, and an upstart hacker from his former team. More than that, Ben must come to grips with his own insignificance as the Company’s plan to stop Leviathan from unleashing the bioweapon at any cost moves forward without him–and he struggles against the infection that is swiftly claiming territory within his own body.

Award-winning author James R. Hannibal ratchets up the tension on every page of this suspenseful new thriller.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

What a fantastic spy thriller! The Paris Betrayal has a lone operator, Ben Calix, thrust into the cold as he crisscrosses continental Europe in a search to stay alive and prove his innocence and loyalty. From a heart-pounding chase in Rome to evading the French police forces in Paris and beyond, it’s a fast-paced story that reminds me of Jason Bourne — and maybe a little Jack Reacher — as Ben searches for the truth while a menacing organization seeks to thwart his every move.

Hannibal’s authorial voice lends a slight bit of snark and authenticity born of experience (not as a spy, but as a veteran) to this whirlwind of a story as Ben Calix proves a relatable protagonist. Memories of Ben’s training and anecdotes about his teammates and network add depth to the increasing suspense surrounding his failed mission and the debilitating plot he is gradually uncovering. (I feel like I’m prepared to make a quick escape and evade pursuers should the need arise from the tidbits of wisdom attributed to Ben’s mentor, Colonel Hale.) The occasional switch to a POV of one of the secondary characters adds further to the subterfuge and raises more questions for the reader. The story is spun in such a way that I was questioning the loyalties of various characters right alongside Ben, trying to determine who was manipulating the situation and who was innocently caught up in the melee with him.

The astute reader will recognize subtle parallels between this story and the life of the Biblical man Job as each face seemingly unjust situations. I think the inclusion of characters who mirror Job’s “friends” and similar internal questions of purpose and justice are a brilliant move on Hannibal’s part to draw comparisons to the ancient account in a modern scenario.

Fans of action-adventure, thrillers, and espionage-related suspense will want to check out The Paris Betrayal or Hannibal’s backlist for more fast-paced reading material.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Tidewater Bride” by Laura Frantz

I am happy to be a part of the blogging team for Laura Frantz’s newest novel, Tidewater Bride! It is a standalone historical romance set in 1634 Virginia Colony.

About the Book
tidewater bride cover

Selah Hopewell seems to be the only woman in the Virginia colony who has no wish to wed. True, there are too many men and far too few women in James Towne. But Selah already has her hands full assisting her father in the family’s shop. And now she is in charge of an incoming ship of tobacco brides who must be looked after as they sort through their many suitors.

Xander Renick is perhaps the most eligible tobacco lord in the settlement. His lands are vast, his crops are prized, and his position as a mediator between the colonists and the powerful Powhatan nation surrounding them makes him indispensable. But Xander is already wedded to his business and still grieves the loss of his wife, daughter of the Powhatan chief.

Can two fiercely independent people find happiness and fulfillment on their own? Or will they discover that what they’ve been missing in life has been right in front of them all along?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Laura Frantz continues to prove her mastery of the historical romance genre with every novel she pens. I am impressed, once again, with the immersive setting, beloved characters, intriguing events, and overall riveting story of Tidewater Bride.

My list of fav Frantz books is long because she’s one of my favorite authors of early America settings. This book is top 4! She introduces eras and places I wouldn’t normally be interested in, or I don’t know much about. She takes readers all the way back to Colonial James Towne here with high historical accuracy which vividly depicts the period and people. I enjoy how Frantz introduces time-specific customs, clothing, language, and day to day life in her stories in a natural way. In this case, I really appreciate her informational author’s note (it had me googling historical events!).

Selah and Xander’s friendship and growing romance unfold at the perfect pace. Their connectedness and backstory are both surprising and poignant, while their current circumstances offer further challenge. Selah is an intelligent and capable woman who demonstrates an admirable respect of her family and trust in God’s will. Xander is a formidable hero who deftly balances the ruggedness needed for survival at such a time with a protective tenderness for all in his care — from his laborers, beloved aunt, son, to his patience with Selah. He’s definitely made my list of book boyfriends due to his rugged charm and wits. 😉

Besides being a captivating story with a tender romance, Tidewater Bride spurs me to think about story and plot beyond the typical. Its presentation of a central romance with several other complex factors influencing pace and story direction is unique and smart. Its themes anchor the characters and reveal their hearts in a relatable way: trust, endurance, the lows of grief, joy, uncertainty, hope. It is a remarkable piece of historical fiction that I am happy to gush over and recommend!

Thank you to Revell for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Mini Review: “You Belong With Me” by Tari Faris

I’m sharing my thoughts today on a contemporary romance novel, You Belong With Me by Tari Faris. See the synopsis of the novel and more about the series on the Goodreads page.

you belong with me book cover

I love the setting and characters! You Belong With Me is “small town charming” with realistically flawed characters and problems, growth, a sparking romance (plus a sweet secondary romance), and a happily ever after. The romantic conflict, though, is centered around a typical “misunderstanding” and situation where both parties keep secrets from each other – not my favorite device. It feels a little forced when honesty could resolve a lot. I do love the way things end up, and a few of the surprises along the way. The themes of grace, belonging/true heritage, and family are organic to the story.

Thank you to the publisher for the copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish” by Bethany Turner

If you haven’t read a Bethany Turner story yet, you’re in for a TREAT! Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish, her latest standalone novel, features the world of celebrity chefs, glamour, and alllll the yummy food.

Hadley Beckett's Next Dish
About the Book

Celebrity chef Maxwell Cavanaugh is known for many things: his multiple Michelin stars, his top-rated Culinary Channel show To the Max, and most of all his horrible temper. Hadley Beckett, host of the Culinary Channel’s other top-rated show, At Home with Hadley, is beloved for her Southern charm and for making her viewers feel like family.

When Max experiences a very public temper tantrum, he’s sent packing to get his life in order. When he returns, career in shambles, his only chance to get back on TV and in the public’s good graces is to work alongside Hadley.

As these polar-opposite celeb chefs begin to peel away the layers of public persona and reputation, they will not only discover the key ingredients for getting along, but also learn the secret recipe for unexpected forgiveness . . . and maybe even love. In the meantime, hide the knives.

Fan-favorite Bethany Turner serves up a heaping helping of humor and romance with this thoroughly modern story centered on cooking, enemies, and second chances.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The conflict in Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is fantastic. From the initial riveting prologue and story setup, I was anxious to see how Hadley would go from despising Max to liking him – let alone actually finding a friendship and romance with him. But trust Bethany Turner to take all these “seemingly” unrelated ingredients and deliver a “dish” that’s as fun as it is memorable. Filled with all the pop culture (and foodie!) references I’ve come to love in Bethany’s voice, this story is an enemies-to-lovers romance at its finest.

I LOVE MAX. And Hadley, of course 😉

Only Bethany Turner could transform a hero in such a dynamic way. Max has met his match with Hadley, and it’s a thrill to see them pitted against one another — and their grudging friendship turn into sparks of the romantic kind. Aside from the hilarious romcom genius of this story, a strong thread of second chances and healing interweaves the culinary world of Max and Hadley. Facades, public image, and honesty are all dealt with in fresh ways.

The cliMAX (see what I did there?) of the story is unexpected in the most refreshing way! The momentum never stops, and the resolution is played out surprisingly when I would have expected a literary trope or a predictable direction. To reveal just how it stands out and plays on a bit of teamwork would reveal too much, so trust me when I say it is perfection!

I enjoyed all the FOOD, culinary and food-celeb references, and the banter of this novel. The quick wit of Hadley and Max, layered and complicated by their relationship, combine to make this a thoroughly entertaining novel with dimension and plenty of flavor! One of my favorite tiny things about this story was Hadley’s penchant for silently reciting “kitchen ABCs” when she is upset: Apples. Beef stroganoff. Cumin. Dicer.

Now I’m off to cook something, because all the kitchen talk in the novel has made me hungry 😉

Thanks to the publisher, Revell, for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Series Review: "Sunrise at Normandy" by Sarah Sundin

I LOVE to learn about history through story! Sarah Sundin’s WWII “Sunrise at Normandy” series explores what life in the US and England was like for citizens in each branch of the US armed forces and for those in the Red Cross, Women’s Royal Navel Service, and on the home front employed on and off base.

You can read the synopsis and learn more about each book in this series on Goodreads.

Series Review

The “Sunrise at Normandy” series follows the stories of the three Paxton brothers, each serving in a different branch (Navy, Air Force, Army) and fighting in the Battle of Normandy. Their familial circumstances are estranged because of events at the beginning of the series. Because of this, each participates in events leading up to D-Day independently and experiences unique opportunities for romantic relationships AND for growing into forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Sea Before Us delves into just what it means to be held in God’s hand during one of the most tumultuous times in modern history (and one of the most interesting to me): WWII Europe just before and during D-Day. Sundin’s writing style flows naturally and relates the depth of the characters with ease. I thought the characters wonderfully likable and easy to root for, although Dorothy annoyed me a few times with her propensity to overlook a certain someone’s roguish nature. Thankfully, the strong and steady personality of Wyatt is a bright beacon for Dorothy as she grows during the story.

The Sky Above Us is a fantastic WWII story that’s even better if you’ve read book 1!. 😉 I enjoyed that several characters are based on actual historical people — the research shines through in that aspect. Subtle faith themes and parallels to the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau deepen the characters’ arcs and add to the complexity of the plot. The romance unfolds naturally amidst all of the WWII happenings to be sensible and sweet. I think this is my favorite of the three!

The Land Beneath Us is the perfect conclusion to the series. This approach to a group of stories, all three on a similar timeline with the stories of the brothers overlapping, is unique and expertly woven by Sarah Sundin. I really appreciate the bits of real history included in this story, especially concerning the Army’s training and preparedness, and the way all the characters show true growth and maturity as a result of their experiences and relationships. Leah, especially, grows into her role as a woman through this. Another thing I really liked about each of these stories is how they parallel and draw influence from prominent Biblical persons, this one referencing Joseph and Leah.

Thank you to Revell publishers for the review copy of each title. These are my honest thoughts and reviews.